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Pakistanis revealing al Qaeda capture 'historic'

By Tom Mintier
CNN Bangkok Bureau Chief

CNN Correspondent Tom Mintier
CNN Correspondent Tom Mintier

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SPECIAL REPORT
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• Interactive: The hunt for al Qaeda
• Audio slide show: Bin Laden's audio message, 2/03
• Special report: Terror on tape
• Special report: War against terror

Editor's note: In our Behind the Scenes series, CNN correspondents share their experiences in covering news around the world.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistani officials of the Inter-Service Intelligence agency, or ISI, showed journalists a videotape Monday of the early morning raid on March 1 that captured top al Qaeda leader Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

The video was about eight minutes long. It started with a briefing of the Pakistani ISI agents conducted in English, which was bit strange. At least that was the language I heard underneath as the pictures were being shown.

The second set of images showed the officers being inspected by a senior ISI official, checking their bulletproof vests and making sure their weapons were at the ready before they went out on the raid. Then it showed them going in their trucks to the raid.

The next pictures showed the agents making their way through the front gate of a compound and through the front door of a house and into a bedroom where Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was taken into custody.

The gunfire the ISI said occurred was not shown. One of the ISI agents was reportedly wounded in the foot by a round from an AK-47 the ISI said Mohammed fired when agents tried to take him into custody.

What was shown was an ISI agent holding Mohammed against the wall. In the video you could not see Mohammed's face. You could see the hair on the back of his head as this ISI agent held him with a gun to his back in one hand and Mohammed's T-shirt wrapped up in a ball with the other.

We did not see anything that indicated Mohammed was sleeping when he was caught, except the video was taken in what appeared to be a bedroom. There was a desktop computer sitting beside the bed and a lot of bags around and briefcases. The video showed agents taking items, notes, and things like that from the bags as evidence, and collecting what they called a truckload of evidence.

The video was edited from scenes they had taken, because you could see different angles of the police moving into the house, taken from different cameras. When asked about that, ISI officials said they did indeed do some editing. They made the decision not to show his face in the video.

We asked if we could have a copy of the video so we could show it on CNN and other news organizations. At first they laughed. Then they said, "Well, we'll see what we can do." But so far they have not come forward with the video.

An ISI briefing of journalists is historic; it has never happened before. Not only did they show us the video but also a series of organizational charts of al Qaeda, a list of those under investigation, those being sought, those in custody, those who have died, the total they have interviewed, the total they have arrested.

These are all figures that have been a point of speculation over the last couple of years. But here the ISI is calling journalists to their headquarters and providing detailed information about their operations.

And the reason is I think they feel a bit miffed that some others may appear to be taking credit for the hard groundwork that was conducted leading up to this arrest.

This is something many people have called for the ISI to do, because they don't have a very good reputation, they don't have any history of dealing with the media and being forthcoming. They don't even leak information very well.

So having the opportunity to sit down with senior members of the ISI in a secure briefing room, where they are providing you with information about their operations in counterterrorism is pretty amazing.

But one must never forget there is a $25 million reward for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. You know, where's that money going to go?

I did talk with Pakistan's foreign minister briefly this evening, and he said the ISI could buy a lot of equipment with that money, and the CIA already has equipment.


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